After providing all the funding for The Brain from Top to Bottom for over 10 years, the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction informed us that because of budget cuts, they were going to be forced to stop sponsoring us as of March 31st, 2013.

We have approached a number of organizations, all of which have recognized the value of our work. But we have not managed to find the funding we need. We must therefore ask our readers for donations so that we can continue updating and adding new content to The Brain from Top to Bottom web site and blog.

Please, rest assured that we are doing our utmost to continue our mission of providing the general public with the best possible information about the brain and neuroscience in the original spirit of the Internet: the desire to share information free of charge and with no adverstising.

Whether your support is moral, financial, or both, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Bruno Dubuc, Patrick Robert, Denis Paquet, and Al Daigen

Tuesday, 4 January 2022
The dark side of the scientific-publications business

Today’s post was inspired by an online course about the process and the business of publishing scientific articles. Presented in French by Julie Augustin, a doctoral student in the Department of Biological Science at the Université de Montréal, in March 2021, this course is now available as two 1-hour YouTube videos. The first, La publication scientifique, qu’est-ce que c’est ?, discusses how researchers prepare scientific articles, how these articles are reviewed by the researchers’ peers, and how they are published in scientific journals. Most people who aren’t scientists themselves don’t know much about these processes, but nowadays, when many of us are basing critical health decisions on discussions of such articles in the media, it’s good to learn more about how these articles get produced.

In her second video, Le côté obscur des publications scientifiques, Julie discusses the dark side of the scientific-publications business. As she relates, just four major scientific publishing companies—Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell and Taylor & Francis—own about 2000 scientific journals each, which account for nearly 70% of all scientific articles published worldwide! What makes this oligopoly a racket is that basically all of the scientific research reported in these articles is government-funded, as are many of the university libraries, institutes and laboratories that pay exorbitant fees to subscribe to these companies’ journals. And the scientists who conduct the peer reviews required before these articles can be published provide this service for free. No wonder these companies make such huge profit margins, in the neighbourhood of 30 to 40%! By way of comparison, technology giants Google (Alphabet), Apple, Facebook (Meta), Amazon and Microsoft, who are no saints either, make margins of about 20%, while grocery stores make about 2.5%. In response to this shameless diversion of public funds to the private sector, a number of initiatives have been taken to promote open access to scientific publications. Some of these initiatives are fairly mainstream, while others, such as Sci-Hub, stand on shakier legal ground, but everybody uses them anyway, because subscription costs for scientific journals have become so prohibitive.

If you’d like to read more about these and other challenges facing science today, I recommend a long but excellent article entitled The 7 biggest problems facing science, according to 270 scientists.

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